Advanced Aerospace Threat Identification Program

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Advanced Aerospace Threat Identification Program
TypeUnited States governmental study
Legal statusSecret program, formally disbanded
PurposeStudy of unidentified flying objects
LeaderLuis Elizondo
$22 million over 5 years

The Advanced Aerospace Threat Identification Program (AATIP)[1] was a secret investigatory effort funded by the United States Government to study unidentified flying objects (UFOs) or unexplained aerial phenomena (UAP). The program was first made public on December 16, 2017. The program began in 2007, with funding of $22 million over the five years until the available appropriations were ended in 2012.[2][3][4] The program began in the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency.[5] According to the Department of Defense, the AATIP program was ended in 2012 after five years, however reporting suggests that programs to investigate UFO continue[6] while a group of UFO enthusiasts have extended the effort, founding a public-benefit corporation and entertainment company named To The Stars Academy of Arts & Science.[7][8]


Senator Reid in 2002

Initiated by then Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nevada)[9] to study unexplained aerial phenomena (UAP) at the urging of Reid's friend, Nevada billionaire and governmental contractor Robert Bigelow,[10] and with support from the late senators Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) and Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii), the program began in the DIA in 2007 and ended after five years, with a budget of $22 million spread out over five years.[2][3]

Senator Reid is from the state of Nevada where the highly classified United States Air Force facility known as “Area 51” is hosted. After the revived interest in the 1970s surrounding the balloon crash that is often referred to as the "1947 Roswell UFO incident", “Area 51” was rumored by ufologists and conspiracy theorists to be the US government's storage location for the crashed alien craft for study.[11]

Interviewed in the aftermath of the AATIP's disclosure, Reid expressed pride in his accomplishment, and was quoted as saying "I think it's one of the good things I did in my congressional service. I've done something that no one has done before."[2][4]

The AATIP has generated a currently 490 page report that documents alleged worldwide UFO sightings over several decades.[12] This report has not been released to the public. The program also funded and published 38 studies.[13][14][15] Those theoretical studies cover a range of advanced, exotic, and theoretical aerospace topics, ranging from "Detection and High Resolution Tracking of Vehicles at Hypersonic Velocities" to "Warp Drive, Dark Energy, and the Manipulation of Extra Dimensions."[14][15][16]

AATIP was headed by Luis Elizondo, who resigned from the Pentagon in October 2017 to protest government secrecy and opposition to the investigation, stating in a resignation letter to US Defense Secretary James Mattis that the program was not being taken seriously.[17] Elizondo, said on December 19, 2017, that he believed there was "very compelling evidence we may not be alone."[18]

While the United States Department of Defense has stated that the program was terminated in 2012, the exact status of AATIP and its termination remains unclear (2017).[19]

Benjamin Radford wrote in Skeptical Inquirer that among what little information has been released by the program are "several short videos of military jets encountering something they couldn't identify...." [20] Those videos are related to the USS Nimitz UFO incident of 2004 and the USS Theodore Roosevelt UFO incidents of 2014-15.[2][21]

Media reporting

Although the program was not named specifically, program leader Elizondo was quoted in The Huffington Post in late October 2017.[22] Several days earlier, Elizondo announced his involvement in founding an aerospace, science, paranormal and entertainment company called, To the Stars Academy for Arts and Science.[23]

AATIP came to a broader public attention on 16 December 2017 - in three news stories - in The Washington Post, Politico and The New York Times:

  • The story in the Times included doubts about alien visitation expressed by James Oberg, a space writer and UFO debunker, and Sara Seager, a scientific specialist on the atmospheres of extrasolar planets. Oberg said "There are plenty of prosaic events and human perceptual traits that can account for these stories", although he welcomed further research.[2][3] It also reported that "Robert Bigelow, a billionaire entrepreneur and longtime friend of Mr. Reid, received most of the money allocated for the Pentagon program."[2]
  • The Washington Post story reported that Elizondo was responsible for the public release of footage taken by US fighter jets that appears to show aerial objects maneuvering in inexplicable ways in the USS Princeton aerial object incident. The newspaper also stated that it had conducted several interviews with Elizondo and former Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Intelligence Christopher Mellon,[8] who is associated with Elizondo in the private venture named "To the Stars Academy for Arts and Sciences".[12][24]
  • In the Politico story Pentagon spokeswoman Dana White confirmed that Elizondo had been the director of AATIP[3] Politico published a statement by an anonymous former congressional staff member that, "After a while[,] the consensus was [that] we really couldn't find anything of substance," ... "They produced reams of paperwork. After all of that there was really nothing there that we could find. It all pretty much dissolved from that reason alone—and the interest level was losing steam. We only did it for a couple of years."[3]

On 16 January 2019, the DIA released a list of 38 research titles pursued by the program in response to a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request by Steven Aftergood, director of the Federation of American Scientists’ Project on Government Secrecy.[13][14][15] [25] One such research topic, “Traversable Wormholes, Stargates, and Negative Energy,” was led by Eric W. Davis of EarthTech International Inc, which was founded by Harold Puthoff, who was formerly involved in Project Stargate.[26] Another project called “Invisibility Cloaking” was headed by German scientist Ulf Leonhardt, a professor at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel. Leonhardt's research pertains to theoretical quantum optics, and in 2006 his work on theoretically creating “an invisible ‘hole’ in space, inside which objects can be hidden” was cited by Nature.[27] Yet another title, “Warp Drive, Dark Energy, and the Manipulation of Extra Dimensions,” was attributed to theoretical physicist Richard Obousy, director of the nonprofit Icarus Interstellar.[28] One of those papers was released to the public by Popular Mechanics on the 14th of February 2020.[16] The paper in question, titled "Clinical Medical Acute & Subacute Field Effects on Human Dermal & Neurological Tissues", was written by Christopher “Kit” Green, a forensic clinician and neuroscientist, who described it as "focused on forensically assessing accounts of injuries that could have resulted from claimed encounters with UAP".[16]

On 22 May 2019, Pentagon spokesman Christopher Sherwood finally confirmed to the New York Post that the program "did pursue research and investigation into unidentified aerial phenomena," dispelling rumors that the program only focused on theoretical physics.[29]

On 26 May 2019, The New York Times reported that US Navy pilots fully briefed AATIP about encounters they had with unexplained objects during the summer of 2014 to March 2015 while flying at high altitudes off the East Coast of the United States.[21] Nonetheless, president Donald Trump, who said he had a short briefing on AATIP, said he is skeptical of Navy sightings of UFOs.[30]

On 1 June 2019, The Intercept published an article with an excerpt from an email obtained via FOIA request. The excerpt called into question Elizondo's position at AATIP. Yes, AATIP existed, and it “did pursue research and investigation into unidentified aerial phenomena,” Pentagon spokesperson Christopher Sherwood confirmed. However, he added: “Elizondo had no responsibilities with regard to the AATIP program while he worked in OUSDI [the Office of Under Secretary of Defense for Intelligence], up until the time he resigned effective 10/4/2017.” To the Stars has attempted to clarify this with an email: “The program was initially run out of [the Defense Intelligence Agency] but when Lue took it over in 2010 as Director, he ran it out of the Office for the Secretary of Defense (OSD) under the Under Secretary of Defense for Intelligence (USDI).”[31]

A February 2020 Popular Mechanics article by UFO investigative writer and retired police lieutenant Tim McMillan said that Bigelow Aerospace Advanced Space Studies (BAASS) was contracted under the auspices of the AATIP program to study UFO reports and purported paranormal phenomena. According to Steven Aftergood, Director for the Federation of American Scientists Project on Government Secrecy, the AAWSAP contract "sounds like it was a good deal for the contractor. But it would be hard to argue that either the military or the public got their money’s worth."[16]

See also


  1. Siese, April (December 16, 2017). "The Pentagon has confirmed its $22M program to investigate UFOs". Quartz. Retrieved December 17, 2017.
  2. 1 2 3 4 5 6 Cooper, Helene; Blumenthal, Ralph; Kean, Leslie (December 16, 2017). "Glowing Auras and 'Black Money': The Pentagon's Mysterious U.F.O. Program". The New York Times. Retrieved December 16, 2017.
  3. 1 2 3 4 5 Bender, Bryan (December 16, 2017). "The Pentagon's Secret Search for UFOs". Politico. Retrieved December 17, 2017.
  4. 1 2 Benson, Eric (March 21, 2018). "Harry Reid on What the Government Knows About UFOs". New York Magazine. Retrieved March 29, 2018.
  5. Greenwood, Max (December 16, 2017). "Pentagon acknowledges program to investigate UFO encounters: report". The Hill. Retrieved December 17, 2017.
  6. Blumenthal, Ralph (December 18, 2017). "On the Trail of a Secret Pentagon U.F.O. Program". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved May 23, 2019.
  7. Overbye, Dennis (December 29, 2017). "U.F.O.s: Is This All There Is?". The New York Times. Retrieved December 30, 2017.
  8. 1 2 Mellon, Christopher (March 9, 2018). "The military keeps encountering UFOs. Why doesn't the Pentagon care? - We have no idea what's behind these weird incidents because we're not investigating". The Washington Post. Retrieved March 12, 2018.
  9. Knapp, George (July 25, 2018). "Exclusive: I-Team obtains some key documents related to Pentagon UFO study". Retrieved September 20, 2018.
  10. Crawford, Jamie (December 17, 2017). "NY Times: Pentagon study of UFOs revealed". CNN. ...Robert Bigelow, the billionaire founder of an aerospace company. Bigelow has spoken about his belief in UFOs visiting the United States as well as the existence of aliens.
  11. Area 51 declassified: No UFOs, but lots of U-2 spy planes
  12. 1 2 Warrick, Joby (December 16, 2017). "Head of Pentagon's secret 'UFO' office sought to make evidence public". The Washington Post. Retrieved December 17, 2017.
  13. 1 2 Trevithick, Joseph (January 18, 2019). "Here's The List Of Studies The Military's Secretive UFO Program Funded, Some Were Junk". The Drive. Retrieved June 11, 2019.
  14. 1 2 3 "DIA Letter to Mr. Steven Aftergood of the Federation of American Scientists in response to FOIA request" (PDF). Federation of American Scientists. January 16, 2019. Retrieved February 18, 2020.
  15. 1 2 3 Bender, Bryan. "Navy withholding data on UFO sightings, congressman says". POLITICO. Retrieved February 18, 2020.
  16. 1 2 3 4 Inside the Pentagon's Secret UFO Program, Popular Mechanics, 14 February 2020
  17. Hart, Benjamin (December 16, 2017). "Reports: The Pentagon Spent Millions on UFO Research". New York Magazine. Retrieved December 17, 2017.
  18. Watkins, Eli; Todd, Brian. "Former Pentagon UFO official: 'We may not be alone'". Cable News Network. Retrieved December 21, 2017.
  19. Reuters Editorial (December 16, 2017). "Does Pentagon still have a UFO program? The answer is a bit mysterious". Reuters. Retrieved December 17, 2017.
  20. Radford, Benjamin (2018). "Newly Revealed Secret DoD 'UFO' Project Less Than Meets the Eye". Skeptical Inquirer. 42 (2): 6–7.
  21. 1 2 Copoper, Helene; Blumenthal, Ralph; Kean (May 26, 2019). "'Wow, What Is That?' Navy Pilots Report Unexplained Flying Objects". The New York Times. Retrieved May 27, 2019.
  22. Kean, Leslie (October 23, 2017). "Fmr. Manager of DOD Aerospace Threat Program: "UFOs are Real"". The Huffington Post. Retrieved December 17, 2017.
  23. Kean, Leslie (October 10, 2017). "Inside Knowledge About Unidentified Aerial Phenomena Could Lead To World-Changing Technology". Huffington Post. Retrieved December 21, 2017.
  24. Zak, Dan (May 30, 2018). "UFOs are suddenly a serious news story. You can thank the guy from Blink-182 for that". The Washington Post. Retrieved June 3, 2018.
  25. Emerson, Sarah; Maiberg, Emanuel (January 17, 2019). "The Government's Secret UFO Program Funded Research on Wormholes and Extra Dimensions". Motherboard. Retrieved January 21, 2019.
  26. "About". Earth Tech. Retrieved January 21, 2019.
  27. Ball, Philip (May 22, 2006). "Invisibility cloaks are in sight". News@nature. doi:10.1038/news060522-18. ISSN 1744-7933.
  28. Interstellar, Icarus (January 20, 2019). "Icarus Interstellar, Interstellar flight". Icarus Interstellar. Retrieved January 21, 2019.
  29. "The Pentagon finally admits it investigates UFOs". New York Post. May 22, 2019. Retrieved May 23, 2019.
  30. Choi, Matthew (June 15, 2019), "Trump says he was briefed on Navy sightings of UFOs", Politico, retrieved June 15, 2019


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